The role that IT plays in companies is changing: Departments are calling for better processes, resulting in new roles, such as business process experts. They aim to bridge the gap between business and IT by ensuring that everyone in the company has a common understanding of processes.
01 Mar 2007
Companies need to be flexible to compete on a global scale, quickly adapting their business processes to changing market conditions. Among other things, they must advance themselves by using IT to improve their processes.
A lack of communication between IT and the business departments can hinder this process innovation. However, undoing this Gordian knot requires expertise, not a sword. Roles such as solution or enterprise architect (see the SAPInfo articles “Enterprise Architects: Key Enablers” and “ASUG for (Enterprise) Architects”) do not go far enough, because they are too strongly IT oriented. A new type of expert – plus innovative communication channels – is necessary to bring IT and business much closer together.
All-arounder with process knowledge
Business process experts are called for. They must have knowledge of both IT and the area in which they work. They possess in-depth expertise of the functions and core processes and are experienced in identifying requirements, modeling processes, and working with Microsoft Office.
Ideal candidates either come from a business background, have programming experience, and want to increase their technical skills; or have worked in application development and want to boost their business skills. Moreover, they must be able to research a wide range of sources and configure applications.
SAP launched a suitable forum for these budding process experts at SAP TechEd, held in October 2006 in Las Vegas. The Business Process Expert Community site provides a virtual meeting place at which customers, partners, and SAP employees can exchange information on specialist topics. In contrast to the SAP Developer Network (SDN), its members are not interested in programming.
The community recognizes that application consultants can no longer afford to restrict themselves to individual applications or solutions. They must broaden their horizons and concentrate on new business processes and the technologies that support them. SAP, again, has its finger on the pulse: By the end of 2006, over 80,000 IT and business experts – of whom 20,000 were from India – had signed up to use the site.
Kartik Iyengar, SAP NetWeaver Competence Group Head at Wipro Technologies in Bangalore, India, is one of the most productive authors, contributing to blogs, forums, and workshops in the Business Process Expert Community. “I may ask a lot of questions but I answer a lot, too,” he says, explaining that he writes in the blogs in various roles – sometimes as a developer, sometimes as an IT architect, then as a process expert. He finds that the community gives him the opportunity to gain new skills that he can use in customer projects and is a constant test of his competence. It is here, in this community, that he conceptualized an xApp based on the feedback from the community members and was built, branded and certified as “iPRO – the procurement composite”. Hosted on the xApp resource center, iPRO serves as a proof-point for a new paradigm of application retiral strategy as “Reverse Engineered xApps”. This, once again, is being discussed and debated on BPX.
More information can be obtained at wipro-on-sdn.com.
Kartik’s own blog, “The Architect’s World,” which has 52 entries so far, looks at topics related to enterprise service-oriented architecture (enterprise SOA). “My blog shows when it’s worth investing in enterprise SOA and how to make the best use of it. Monetization of enterprise SOA is the biggest challenge for companies today and the BPX community helps me get Feedback on my ideas that I can take across to our customers as part of our enterprise SOA Adoption Workshops. A classic example is the formulation of an exciting concept, which began on the BPX community and that is being adopted by our customers. We are calling it the advent of “Reverse Engineered xApps” – an entirely different approach to application retiral with enterprise SOA that puts money on the table for the CXO. So the BPX community is the best sounding board for your random thoughts that the community helps to give a concrete shape,” he explains.
A blog is the ideal medium, because good ideas propagate themselves while the bad ones are discarded. Developers of service-oriented architectures thus have a virtual space with unlimited opportunities.
Ramakrishnan Ramamurthy, Vice President, enterprise application services at Wipro, endorses SAP communities within Wipro and supports Kartik’s views on BPX and actively drives these initiatives internally. Ramakrishnan says, “The Business Process Expert Community opens up SAP’s enterprise SOA road map to customers and partners. We see the market being more receptive to solution architects and see the focus on competency building. Such activities are fuelled by the BPX community participation and we see our employees taking more active interest in learning from the vast ecosystem, and not being restrained by organizational boundaries.” The know-how and business insights often come from experts who are not IT developers, thereby spreading knowledge throughout the SAP ecosystem.
With the same aim, the community provides process templates from SAP customer projects; examples of configuration and optimization; and tools for adapting, recombining, and running real-time applications.
Accessing the Business Process Expert Community site is easy and free. Besides in-depth information, discussion forums, and blogs, members benefit from specialist articles, instructions, audio and video contributions, downloads, events, a newsletter, a constantly growing range of training materials, previews, and all the other advantages of an active, well-established community of experts. To register, visit bpx.sap.com.
Reprinted with permission from SAPInfo (www.sap.info)